Prasanta Kumar Deka, J. -
(1.) Heard Mr. G.N. Sahewalla, learned senior counsel, assisted by Mr. A.K. Sahewalla for the petitioners and Mr. N.C. Das, learned senior counsel, assisted by Ms. A. Das, learned counsel for the respondent Nos.1, 2 and 3 and also heard Mr. A. Chakraborty, learned Government Advocate for the respondent Nos.4 and 5.
1. The petitioner No.1 is a company duly registered under the Companies Act, 1956 and the petitioner No.2 is the Tea Garden run by the petitioner No.1/company, engaged in the business of manufacture of black tea since the last several years. In between the period of 1998 to 2008, the management of the Tea Estate had faced severe financial crisis and was unable to deposit the employer's along with the employees contribution to the Assam Tea Employee's Provident Fund Organization (ATEPFO), which was earlier known as Assam Tea Plantation Provident Fund and Pension Fund Scheme. The amount so defaulted was forwarded to the Collector/Deputy Commissioner, Jorhat by respondent No.2 for recovery of dues as per Section 15 of the Assam Tea Plantation Provident Fund and Pension Fund Scheme (Amended) Act, 1958 (hereinafter referred to as Act, 1958) and by the letter dated 30.04.2009, requested to initiate recovery proceedings of the defaulted amount for the period from 08.04.2007 to 01.11.2008. Similarly, on 31.08.2007, due to non-payment of dues, the respondent No.2 forwarded to the Collector/Deputy Commissioner, Jorhat for recovery of dues under the said Act, 1958 to initiate recovery proceedings as per the mode of recovery of arrear land revenue for the defaulted period of 23.12.1998 to 24.03.2007. The Bakijai Officer of the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Jorhat, registered Bakijai Case No.PF/BC/1/2007- 08, for realization of an amount of Rs.73,76,032.00 for the period from 08.04.2007 to 01.11.2008 and Bakijai Case No.PF/BC/2/2007-08 was also registered for realization of Rs.2,38,23,023.00 for the period from 23.12.1998 to 24.03.2017 and both the said Bakijai cases were proceeded against the petitioners. The said Bakijai proceedings were directed to be concluded within a period of 6 (six) months from the date of order, i.e., from 06.01.2005, passed by this Court in WP(C) 5720/2014, preferred by the present respondent No.2, i.e. the Board of Trustees, ATEPFO. As per the said direction of this Court, on 12.08.2015, the petitioner No.2 duly issued the cheque for payment of the pending dues of the petitioners and thereafter on 13.08.2015, all the pending dues in the form of public demand were duly deposited by the petitioners and on 26.08.2015, the Bakijai Clearance Certificates were issued in favour of the petitioner No.2.
(2.) The petitioner No.2 received notice dated 08.09.2015 issued by the respondent No.2 thereby informing that the petitioner No.2 is liable to deposit 15 percent statutory interest on the defaulted amount deposited against provident fund and the respondent No.2 directed the petitioner No.2 to make payment of an amount of Rs.2,94,21,497.77 as the interest for the period of 13.12.1998 to 24.03.2007, the principal amount already recovered by Bakijai Case No.PF/BC/2/2007-8 and an amount of Rs.70,85,582.87 as the interest for the period from 08.04.2007 to 01.11.2008, the principal amount also recovered through Bakijai Case No.PF/BC/1/2007-18.
(3.) Being aggrieved, the petitioners have filed the WP(C) No.5896/2017 for quashing the impugned notices bearing Memo No.PF/(L)/2015/S-248/6257-59, dated 08.09.2015 against the claim of interest amounting Rs.2,94,21,497.77 and for further direction for refund and an order to adjust the amount already paid by the petitioner in pursuant to the impugned notice dated 08.09.2015. Similarly, WP(C) No.5902/2017 is also preferred challenging the notice dated 08.09.2015, bearing No. PF/(L)/2015/S-248/6257-59, with similar prayer as that made in the above writ petition against the claim of Rs.70,85,582.87. Both the writ petitions are taken up for disposal at the admission stage by this common order.;